Job Interview Attire 101
Even if your candidates aren’t asking you what they should wear to their job interview, you can be sure that they’re asking themselves. Helping your applicants know what to wear to an interview is a great way to show them that your organization respects their time and their interest in joining you.
Workplace dress norms have changed as much as the job application process itself, shifting and diversifying since the time when people pounded the pavement in carefully pressed suits handing resumés to receptionists.
Modern workplaces now fall on a spectrum from traditional business attire to “Who cares? We’re all working remotely.” Candidates understand the importance of fitting in with the right interview outfit and often spend hours searching for advice on a wide variety of topics including what accessories to wear, how to look smarter, what questions to ask in an interview, and much more. This adds an element of stress and uncertainty to the interview process.
Interview attire shouldn’t be the main focus on an interview.
Instead of leaving your interview dress requirements to two-word descriptions like business casual or business professional, spend the time to communicate your organization’s dress expectations to your candidates. This will help both the interviewer and interviewee focus on connections—not clothing.
Start Your Excellent Candidate Experience Early
The main purpose of an in-person interview is to get to know a candidate (and to let them get to know your company). An easy first step to delivering an excellent candidate experience is letting candidates know how to dress for an interview. In this tight job market, a candidate’s impression of your organization is just as important as your hiring managers’ impressions of each applicant. If the job isn’t a good match, your candidates may go with another offer, or change their minds after they’ve accepted your offer.
So the question isn’t whether first impressions matter. They do. The question is which impressions you should focus on in your limited interactions with your candidates.
Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy explains that there are two main impressions that come out of a job interview:
- Warmth: where your candidates decide whether or not they can trust your organization
- Competence: where they decide whether or not they respect your organization’s accomplishments.
Of the two, having trust is more important than commanding respect. Trust leads to respect because trust leads candidates to want to continue with your organization.
Communication during the hiring process gives your candidates their first taste of what it’s like to collaborate in your organization. When you communicate your organization’s expectations—from what to wear to the interview to outlining each step of the hiring process—you demonstrate that your organization is competent while building trust with your job candidates. You also help your candidates remove fears that your organization will judge them on something inessential (like an untucked shirt) instead of their real merits.
Delivering the Dress Details
Start by identifying your company’s dress code, both in the call to schedule the interview and in email reminders you send. Expand on the standard categories of business professional, business casual, or casual with requirements specific to your organization—such as a policy against open-toed shoes or shorts.
After communicating your standards, you can re-emphasize the importance of dressing comfortably—the goal should be to focus on the interview, instead of adjusting collars or skirts.
Your communication should create a clear picture of what it’s like to work in your organization. Will your clients expect professionals with conservative haircuts and upscale fashion? Does your organization require a uniform? Will bearded men need to shave, or just keep their beards well-groomed? Will employees need a certain type of clothing for safety reasons? Knowing the requirements in advance helps candidates understand the investment they will need to make in their appearance to be a part of your organization.
Of course, communication takes time, and time is often in short supply among hiring managers and recruiters. So we’ve provided the following templates that you can adapt to craft your own messaging to let your candidates know what to wear to a job interview. Sending these details ahead of time can ensure that your organization’s definitions match up with your candidates’.
“We’re excited to meet with you! So you know what to expect, our office observes business professional attire to meet the needs of our clientele. What does this mean at [insert your company here]?
- Suit and tie
- Blazer and dress pants
- Button-down shirts
- Pantsuits or skirts
- Scuff-free shoes
We ask that our employees maintain conservative haircuts and dress, with a clean-shaven appearance or neatly-groomed facial hair. Please dress comfortably in this style so that we can focus on getting to know you better during the interview.”
“We’re excited to meet with you! So you know what to expect, our office observes business casual attire. What does this mean at [insert your company here]?
- Dress slacks
- Chinos or khakis
- Tucked in button-down shirt
- Polo shirts
- Blouse and dress pants
- Conservative dresses or skirts
- Nice shoes
Please dress comfortably in this style so that we can focus on getting to know you better during the interview.”
“We’re excited to meet with you! So you know what to expect, we have what we call a smart casual dress code. What does this mean?
- Collared shirts
- Conservative pants
- A comfortable dress
- Shoes without too much wear and tear
Feel free to dress comfortably so that we can focus on getting to know you better during the interview (but not so comfortably that we wonder if you’re heading to the gym afterward).”
And if there are any other questions, you can send them the link to our new HR Questions video, What Should I Wear to a Job Interview?
Now, get out there and make those important connections! We believe in you!